There is a matter of fact statistic that gets bounced around a lot these days and for some reason it never seems to capture the attention of the media creators or their media obsessed viewers. It has to do with hospitals and the needless number of deaths that are caused every year because of millions of infections that are caught on site in these ecosystems. Let me quote something from today's Wall Street Journal (June 21, 2011). It is tossed off nonchalantly, as if we all know the grim news: "Hospital-acquired infections cause an estimated 100,000 deaths in the U.S. annually and are an increasing threat to patient safety around the world." That's one jumbo jet crashing to earth every day of the year with no Sundays off.
The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths cites the same number of deaths, but adds that there are over 2 million such infections caused by hospital stays and 30 billion dollars in yearly costs. Since many of these infections can be stopped by simple things like hand washing, testing of incoming patients, and other simple, cost effective actions, you would think this would lead the news every night, would be the source of great outrage by any publicity seeking politician and the source of many films, feature and documentary alike. Where is Paddy Chayevsky when you need him?
The great, late Chayevsky (Marty, Network) already took his shots at hospitals with his screenplay The Hospital which was directed by Arthur Hiller in 1971 and starred George C Scott as an anguished doctor, dealing with suicidal thoughts, while contending with his disintergrating home life and a series of deaths in the hospital that were in large part due to malfeasance, incompetence and possibly a mysterious, deadly character. Chayevsky's lacerating examination of the ecosystem full of doctors, nurses, orderlies and chaos was unsparing, but actually matched by a documentary by Frederick Wiseman a year earlier. Wiseman's Hospital focuses, using his veritae techniques, on the daily operations of a Manhattan hospital, but presents the daily grind of serving countless patients, many of them poor and helpless. Both films give audiences a sense of the enormous breathing, living thing a hospital is, but we have had few films like these in the last 40 years.
It intriques me that such a large number of yearly deaths, occuring in institutions that are supposed to be saving lives, has not been the subject matter of a wave of films. If the math is correct, over one million people have died since 9/11, because of "hospital acquired infections" and over 20 million people injured. And if the experts that have studied these ecosystems are correct, most of the traumatic deaths and injuries are "preventable".
The Wall Street Journal article I cited was focused on how cellphones are now seen as a source of new infections. Patients, doctors or visitors who carry them into the hospital ecosystems are introducing "disease-causing bacteria on 39.6% of patient phones and 20.6% of workers phones."
A conga line of deadly bacterium are then announced. What a dystopian film that information could help create. But we won't be getting that kind of film. It's summer and time for The Green Lantern, The X Men and Cars II. The characters in these films may save many, but none of their heroic acts will involve washing their hands or decontaminating anything as simple as a cell phone.